Just when everyone had nearly abandoned the prospect of merger-and-acquisition activity among offshore drillers, Transocean (NYSE:RIG) and GlobalSantaFe (NYSE:GSF) up and eloped. Now that Pride International (NYSE:PDE) has followed with two large asset sales, speculative hearts must be aflutter once more. Given the broader market jitters, Pride's accomplished a rather remarkable feat.

How did Pride pull off a billion-dollar deal at a time when the credit markets have seized up tighter than the 40 thieves' treasure trove in the Arabian Nights? The magic phrase in this case isn't "open, sesame," but rather, "cold, hard cash." Pride is selling its Latin American land-drilling and well-servicing assets to GP Investments, a large Brazilian private equity firm, for cash.

That's the idea, anyway. The deal hasn't closed, and while it isn't nearly as big as the shaky TXU (NYSE:TXU) buyout, it's still at risk, in my view. Last year, GP did 12 deals valued at $2.3 billion in total, so $1 billion is a serious slug of cash for the firm. Borrowing that money could get challenging, depending on how market conditions develop. Let's wait and see. Let's not run out and buy shares of competitors Noble (NYSE:NE) and Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO) just because this deal has been announced, OK?

As for that second asset sale I mentioned: After dropping its big news on Friday, Pride followed up yesterday with an announcement that it has also sold off its three tender-assisted rigs for more than $200 million. If we bracket for a moment any potential financing snags, these two sales will give Pride a huge amount of firepower to develop its deepwater position. That's good news for both Pride shareholders and investors in companies like Keppel -- the firms that build these giant, high-specification rigs.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't own shares in any company mentioned. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy keeps you jitter-free.